Released: 2010, Cadiz Music
I could swear I wrote a review last year for Christopher Lee’s third solo album CHARLEMANGE. I read he had done a Metal Opera, so I bought it, listened to it, played it on my radio show and I even can recollect my thoughts on the CD…and yet it is nowhere to be found on the site or on my hard-drive. I must have dreamt writing it…
What prompted me to revisit this CD is the fact that there is quite a bit of hype about the forthcoming (May 2013) album by Christopher Lee. I was perplexed about the on-line excitement about his new album, as no one really noticed when his third album came out in 2010. The forthcoming 2013 album is virtually the same thing, just Charlemange Part II. No matter.
In case you are wondering whom Christopher Lee is, he an English actor, singer and author. He was born in 1922. He played various bad guys over the years; in a James Bond film, Star Wars films and The Lord Of The Rings Films. More importantly, he is best known in the Metal world for his voice work with Rhapsody and Manowar. In my opinion, all of his movies, books, awards, charity work and eventual knighthood pale in comparison to the honour of being asked to narrate on a Manowar album. Back in 2010 Lee, inspired by his work with the aforementioned Metal titans, recorded his first ‘Metal’ solo album and third album overall.
CHARLEMANGE, subtitled, ‘By The Sword And The Cross’ are a dozen tracks that run about 50 minutes and the album comes with a couple of bonus tracks. The packaging is very nice, full lyrics with a nice layout and design. The album is a concept album about the final days of the Christian King, Charlemange. The production is nice and loud and suits this mega-epic, Rock Opera. An Italian composer, by the name of Marco Sabiu, wrote the album. He has no metal credentials whatsoever, having only worked in classical music realms, pop-stars and movie soundtracks. There were no performers on this album with any sort of Metal experience either.
Ultimately, as a Metal album, this is pretty weak. Only a couple tracks could be classified as ‘Metal’. Yes, it is a stirring, classic, grandiose, operatic epic, but imagine a Rhapsody album, without electric guitar or double-bass drums, you might have an audio representation of what this whole album sounds like. It’s very symphonic and heavily orchestrated with lots of narration with cool British accents, and various talented vocalists playing various roles. Apparently, the album won the ‘Spirit Of Metal’ award at the 2010 Metal Hammer Magazines annual ‘Golden Gods’ ceremony. It’s pretty damn Metal for a non-Metal album! However…it really isn’t heavy. At all.
I really do like Metal ‘novelty’ projects, however I realize that if this did not have Christopher Lee’s name attached to the project, CHARLEMANGE would have gone unnoticed by most and completely ignored by the Metal community. As a work of art, it is world-class, as good as anything that Andrew Lloyd-Weber has ever done but as a Metal project, I can’t really recommend it to anyone except curiosity seekers and die-hard Metal Opera fans like myself. It pains me to give CHARLEMANGE a low score because I do like it, but in good faith for this site I have to. The Metal-Rules.com rating of two out of five states, ‘Has it’s moments but not worth buying or owning’ and that is pretty accurate in this case. Allegedly Part II, CHARLEMANGE-THE OMENS OF DEATH is considerably heavier and has Richie Faulkner of Judas Priest on board, so approach this growing franchise with caution.